How to fly Emirates First Class for free with points & miles

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststips or news.

Today: How to book Emirates First Class using points & miles?

Emirates offers one of the best First Class products in the world, with complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers, impressive airport lounges, amazing onboard suites with sliding doors, gourmet dining in the sky, Dom Perignon Champagne aperitifs, and world-class amenities & facilities (think moisturizing pajamas, virtual windows, zero gravity beds, and an onboard bar). You can read my trip reports here:

Emirates has installed First Class on both its Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft. The ‘old’ First Class product is similar on both aircraft types, although you won’t get to experience the famous shower spa and inflight bar when you don’t fly on the A380. And while this ‘old’ product already set the standard for First Class worldwide two decades ago, Emirates recently introduced a new First Class cabin that set the bar even higher. This new product (often dubbed the ‘Game Changer’ First Class Suites) is only available on a small number of Boeing 777 aircraft, which fly on a limited number of routes between Dubai and Brussels, Geneva, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Singapore, Paris, London, Riyadh, New York and Washington.

While the cost of a roundtrip First Class ticket with Emirates is somewhere between $5000 and $25,000 USD, you can also use miles and points to book an award seat (almost for free) in the airline’s most sought-after premium cabin. The good news is that Emirates makes a lot of award space available in its First Class cabin. On the other hand, Emirates isn’t part of an airline alliance, so it doesn’t have as many partners as other carriers for booking award seats. In the past, Emirates allowed its First Class awards to be booked with Alaska Airlines miles, Japan Airlines miles, or Korean Air miles but that is no longer the case. Alaska Airlines terminated its partnership with Emirates on August 1, 2021. Soon after, Japan Airlines lost access to Emirates’ First Class award space on September 1, 2021. Australia’s flag carrier Qantas is still allowed indefinitely.

Taken together, your options for booking a First Class Emirates award seat are limited to:

  • Using miles via the frequent flyer program of Emirates and Qantas
  • Converting Marriott Rewards hotel points into frequent flyer miles with the loyalty programs of Emirates and Qantas
  • Converting credit card points into frequent flyer miles with the loyalty programs of Emirates and Qantas

I hereby give you an overview of the best strategies to book a First Class award seat on Emirates. Share you own strategies & tips in the comments below.


The best frequent flyer program for booking an Emirates First Class tickets is none other than Emirates’ own frequent flyer program, called Skywards. Skywards used to be a lackluster program offering very little in value to travelers, but since the onset of the pandemic, the program has improved significantly, especially following a massive reduction of the carrier-imposed surcharges on award tickets.

This is how you can book an award ticket in First Class with Skywards:

  1. Visit the Emirates website
  2. Log in to your Skywards account (right upper corner)
  3. After you log in, search for flights
  4. Select your flights
  5. Pay the award seat with your miles and any additional taxes and fees with cash

Emirates has a tool on its website that calculates the number of Skywards miles needed to book a First Class award seat. Here are some examples (one-way First Class tickets only):

  • New York City to Milan for 85,000 Skywards miles
  • Newark to Athens for 85,000 Skywards miles
  • Dubai to Tokyo for 117,500 Skywards miles
  • New York-JFK to Dubai for 136,250 Skywards miles
  • Los Angeles to Dubai for 155,000 Skywards miles.

Emirates’ Skywards program does offer some great opportunities for booking award seats:

  • Bookings can be made online
  • All Emirates flights can be booked when an award seat is available (regardless of origin and departure).
  • Emirates allows a stop-over on round-trip tickets, so you can combine any trip with a few days of relaxation in Dubai.
  • Emirates allows passengers to pay for award flights using any combination of cash and Skywards miles (which might be useful if you don’t have enough miles to pay the ticket).
  • First Class award tickets booked via Skywards are eligible for chauffeur-driven transfers to/from the airport.

There are some disadvantages to consider tough when booking a redemption via Skywards:

  • One-way awards require more than half of the round-trip mileage cost.
  • Although Skywards offers saver rewards during lower-demand periods (which require less miles compared to regular awards ), saver awards are not offered for First Class tickets.


Qantas is the only other airline that has access to Emirates’ First Class awards seats. Both airlines code-share on the Kangaroo route between Australia and Europe, and have extensive partnerships in their respective frequent flyer programs (called Qantas Points for Qantas). As such, you can redeem your Qantas Points miles for Emirates First Class tickets on any flight operated by Emirates when an award seat is available. And in case you don’t have enough miles in your account for an Emirates First Class ticket, Qantas Points allows you to book First Class awards seats using a combination of points and cash.

That said, Qantas isn’t the most economical way to book Emirates redemptions because the carrier charges high fuel surcharges and also requires an above average amount of miles for First Class redemptions. Here are some examples:

  • New York (JFK) to Dubai (DXB): 149,800 miles (one-way)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Dubai (DXB): 170,800 miles (one-way)
  • London (LHR) to Dubai (DXB): 89,800 miles (one-way)
  • Paris (CDG) to Dubai (DXB): 89,800 miles (one-way)


Marriott’s loyalty program – called Marriott Bonvoy – offers its members the possibility to earn points and exchange them for valuable rewards when they stay at one of Marriott’s 30 different hotel brands across 6800+ locations in more than 150 countries. One of the best ways to spend your Marriott Bonvoy points is to convert them in frequent flyer miles and use them for a First Class redemption, for example with Emirates. The list of Marriott Bonvoy’s airline partners is impressive and the 3:1 conversation rate of points into miles is unrivaled. In addition, you receive a 5,000 mileage bonus when you convert 60,000 points into miles (resulting in 25,000 airline miles instead of 20,000).  As a consequence, one of the single best values of Marriott Bonvoy is to transfer your points in bulks of 60,000 to an airline partner and book free First Class award tickets or upgrades.


You can boost your Emirates frequent flyer account with your credit card spendings as the Skywards program is a 1:1 transfer partner with the top travel credit card rewards programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou. So even if you do not fly Emirates or accrue miles with its frequent-flier program, you can simply set up a Skywards account (or a frequent flyer account with Qantas) and transfer points from any of those three programs to it at a 1:1 exchange rate and book award seats.

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  1. We used our Chase Ultimate Rewards IAD – DXB – JNB and back. Very easy. Loved the chauffeur cars.

  2. I’m pretty sure that reward flights – even in First – do not come with chauffeur car. I’ll be a bit miffed if not, as I recently (April 2022) did a one way flight in First from DXB to LHR and didn’t even bother to try and book the chauffeur car at either end!

  3. question for Julian – did you have to transfer your points to Emirates frequent flyer account or did you just buy a ticket using the Chase ultimate rewards travel site ?

  4. Hi there. Amazing article, but I´m really struggling booking a first class award seat (one way) for ANY destination (ideally more than 7 hours flight, following destinations preferred: Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius, Seychelles). I´m extremely flexible with the dates and routes, and have been trying almost daily for the last couple of months to find an award seat for a flight from London (with my 142 000 Emirates Skywards), I´ve selected multiple destinations, but can´t seem to find a single flight within the next 12 months which is insane. Upon calling up Emirates, they have been extremely unhelpful too. Am I doing anything wrong, or do you have any tips?

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